What the ASA’s New Affiliate Guidelines Mean for Influencers
A fortnight ago, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) released new guidelines for ‘social influencers’ (they’re including bloggers under this term too) who use affiliate programmes to earn money.
(Psst… if you’re not using affiliate marketing yet, here’s our guide to getting started).
The key takeaway from the update is that you need to be making it clear to your readers and followers that you’re using affiliate links. This is nothing new – disclosure has always been important – but the updated guidelines do emphasise that affiliate content should be obviously identifiable. No more burying #ad in the middle of thirty other hashtags!
Below we go over exactly how to comply with the new rules on your blog, vlog and various social media accounts.
Affiliate disclosure for bloggers
If you’re writing a blog post where all of the products and links featured are affiliate ones, you should make this clear to readers before they click through to the content – for example, by including ‘Ad’ in the title of the post.
If, as is more often the case, only some of the links in your post are affiliate ones then you don’t need to label the whole post as an ad, but you do need to identify each individual affiliate link. It’s up to you how you highlight this, so long as readers know that a link is an affiliate one by the time they get to them.
For example, you could use a * by the affiliate links combined with a disclosure at the top of the article stating something like “Links with a * are affiliate ones”. However, putting that disclosure at the end of your article would not be acceptable, because they might’ve clicked on a link before they got that far, unaware of what the asterisk symbol meant. Similarly, a disclosure that exists only on your ‘about’ page or somewhere else that isn’t the blog post is not enough, because chances are they’ll see the link before they see that (if they ever even do).
Sometimes, your affiliate links are all in one place within a blog post. For example, you may regularly share outfits and then end with a ShopStyle widget showcasing similar products. In this case, you could pop a label just before this part of the post such as “Ad: Get the Look” or “Get the Look (affiliate links)”.
There is one occasion where affiliate links don’t need disclosing however – banner ads. If you use affiliate banners on your site, the ASA states that these are already obviously identifiable as an ad. Let’s face it, everyone knows that bloggers aren’t displaying a brand’s banner on their site just out of the goodness of their heart!
Affiliate disclosure for vloggers
The rules for vloggers are mostly the same as for bloggers, such as including ‘Ad’ in the title of a video if the whole thing relates to affiliate content. So if the entire video is a review of a product that you have an affiliate link to in the description, that’s an ad. Here’s a case where the ASA ruled that disclosing content as sponsored at the beginning of the video wasn’t enough, because consumers “needed to know that they were selecting an ad to view before they opened and watched it”.
However again, if it’s a mix of affiliate and non-affiliate content, you just need to disclose the bits that are advertising before you talk about the product. This could be a verbal disclosure, or a bit of on-screen text that appears at that point.
Affiliate disclosure on social media
The new ASA guidelines also cover sharing links on social media, and take into account the ‘quirks’ of each individual network. For example:
Space is limited, so including the #ad hashtag when sharing an affiliate link is enough to satisfy the rules.
Here, you can write a lot and followers may need to click ‘read more’ to see the whole thing – so the rules are the same as for a blog post. Include a disclosure such as ‘Ad’ at the start of the update, or at least before the first affiliate link appears.
Since in some cases, such as on desktop, only an image is initially visible, the ASA recommends that you include an identifier such as the word ‘Ad’ on the image itself. Canva or PicMonkey are good tools to add text to images, and PicMonkey even has a free app available for Android and iOS.
Only a small section of the description shows up initially, therefore the ASA advises putting ‘Ad’ or a similar disclosure at the beginning of your Pin description.
The ASA has made it clear that you are responsible for taking into account the way your content appears on each particular network you’re sharing it on, such as whether text is immediately visible and how much of it, and always ensuring that your followers see a disclosure before they see affiliate content. It’s no longer enough just to say you have a disclosure on there somewhere, it now needs to be clear and conspicuous.
What do you think of the new affiliate guidelines for influencers? Have a question we haven’t answered here? Leave a comment, we love to hear from you!
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This has been so helpful knowing what needs to be mentioned on what platform. Thanks for sharing this!
Thank you for this, it’s very good to know all the changes for affiliate links and keep up to date on all social media advertising.